The Gulf, One Year Later: How Wildlife Populations Are Faring

(Photo via Newscom)

As the one-year anniversary of the BP oil-spill disaster approaches, how are the wildlife populations in the Gulf faring? The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has released a new report detailing the impact of the oil spill on several of the Gulf’s animal species, as well as the future implications for their respective populations.

Here are some highlights from the report:

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Because the oil spill occurred during the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna’s breeding season, the species’ eggs and young — which are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of contamination — were severely affected by the spill. In addition, the Atlantic Bluefin Tuna continues to suffer from overfishing.  Status: Poor

Bottlenose Dolphins

Since the oil spill, the numbers of stranded bottlenose dolphins have increased fivefold, according to the NWF. However, more studies are necessary to determine the direct effects of the oil spill on bottlenose-dolphin populations in the Gulf. It is likely that, in addition to the adverse impact of contamination, bottlenose dolphins will face the residual effect of reduced food supply. Status: Good

Brown Pelicans

According to the NWF, two-thirds of the 700 pelicans found in the oil-spill area were dead. However, cleanup efforts were successful in saving many individuals. In the future, the brown pelican will continue to be affected by habitat loss, rising sea levels, tropical storms and other impacts of climate change. Status: Good

Sea Turtles

Sea-turtle populations were perhaps the most affected by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Of the five species of sea turtles that inhabit the Gulf, four are endangered and one is seeking endangered status. From May through September 2010, strandings of sea turtles were eight times higher than any of the record-highs over the prior 22 years, the NWF says. In addition, sea turtles continue to face threats from commercial fishing, habitat destruction, contamination and climate change. Status: Poor


More studies are still needed to determine the long-term impact of the oil spill on shrimp populations. Nonetheless, it is clear that toxicity will remain a concern. A decline in coastal wetlands also continues to plague their future. Status: Good

How you can help

Although it is impossible to reverse the horrific oil-spill catastrophe, it’s not too late to help wildlife in the Gulf. Click here to urge Congress to uphold the Clean Water Act and require that BP fines go back to restoring the Gulf.


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